By Jennifer Von Ohlen
DASSEL, MN A new dean of students was recently hired at Dassel-Cokato High School (DCHS) following the resignation of Dennis Abernathy, who was offered, and accepted the principal position at Warroad High School after working as DCHS’s dean of students for five years.
“Of the schools I have worked in, I can honestly say [DCHS] has been the most enjoyable experience for me,” stated Abernathy. “The students, staff, and community have been fantastic. Dassel-Cokato is a great place to be.”
Filling Abernathy’s shoes will be past Glencoe-Silver Lake and Willmar special education teacher Matt Foss, who is looking forward to getting to know DC’s student body, and learning on the job.
“As the dean of students, it is my goal to get to know each student and help direct their education in a way that is individualized to them,” said Foss.
“All students need to be able to understand their potential and realize that there is a life after high school. The sky is the limit for these students; it is my job to help them realize this and pursue their dreams to the greatest extent possible.”
A lifetime in education
Foss considers himself to have been surrounded by education his entire life, having parents who taught special education for more than 35 years.
Rather than (initially) following in his parents’ footsteps, Foss graduated with an economics/business degree from the University of Minnesota. It took “very little time” working in the field, however, before Foss realized that this career path was not for him.
Shortly thereafter, he got a job as a special education paraprofessional in an elementary school, and it was there that he met his wife, Emily. Seeing the skills and potential Foss had in a school setting, Emily and Foss’s parents encouraged him to pursue education as a career.
Their support prompted Foss to enroll at Minnesota State University in Mankato, where he attained his teaching license in special education with an emphasis in specific learning disabilities. He also earned a master’s degree in emotional/behavioral disabilities (EBD).
With his teaching license, Foss started working as a Level III EBD instructor in the Willmar Public School District (WPS), and later joined the Glencoe-Silver Lake District (GSL) as a special education teacher. While at GSL, he also coached cross country and track, and also obtained his k-12 principal license through Hamline University. After spending a year at GSL, Foss returned to Willmar as a special education teacher and afterschool coordinator.
“I loved my time at both WPS and GSL,” Foss commented. “I feel blessed to have gained the experiences I have, and the relationships I have formed.”
Becoming “the dean”
Throughout his years in special education, Foss “always” had the ability to connect with his students and understand their needs. When the dean of students position became available at DCHS, Foss decided he wanted to apply those abilities on a “greater scale,” and so he decided to go for it.
In addition to establishing relationships with DC students and their families, Foss hopes to be a good example in remaining positive throughout any circumstance, which he describes as being one of his greatest attributes.
“I am hoping that as dean of students, I am able to demonstrate this ability and show students, as well as staff, that no matter the situation there is always something to build from.”
Foss continued by expressing his belief in the theory that “who we are during times of adversity determines who we will be during times of success,” and his hope that he will be able to help students achieve their highest potential.
As Foss shares his knowledge with the student body, he is also looking forward to the lessons DC’s students and staff will be teaching him.
“There is always room for growth,” he explained, as he strives to become the best educator and dean of students he is capable of being.
“I look forward to all the challenges and successes that this position will bring in the upcoming year,” he said.
Foss’s door is always open to students, parents, staff, or community members who would like to know more about who Foss is as an individual. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a meeting time.